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  • Writer's pictureJP Kenwood

Trajan’s Ganymede

In Book 3, I introduce my fictionalized version of a little understood historical figure, Marcus Ulpius Phaedimus.

This young man (origin unknown but probably Greek) was called many things: Trajan’s freedman, his personal secretary, his lictor (official attendant), his sommelier, and his steward. In the Dominus saga, Phaedimus is also Marcus’s favorite bed warmer. Phaedimus died in 117 at Silenus shortly after our dear Marcus died from some disputed cause… illness or poisoning or something else? Phaedimus was only 28 years old when he died under unusual circumstances, and his remains were finally brought back to Rome for burial many years later. How do we know this? Miraculously, the lengthy marble epitaph (funerary inscription) of poor Phaedimus survives and is currently housed in the Vatican Museum’s epigraphic collection (photo rights: Vatican Museums)


In AD 107, Phaedimus would have been 18 years old. We don’t know when Phaedimus was finally freed by Trajan, but in our story this happens later in his life. In 107, our fictionalized Phaedimus is a beautiful and fiercely loyal pleasure slave who serves wine and kneels at the foot of Marcus’s couch during lads-only banquets at the palace. Trajan’s devoted Ganymede. 😀

No confirmed images of Phaedimus survive, though he might appear as one of the lictor figures on the Column of Trajan in Rome (although I highly doubt this). Since I prefer to have visual inspirations for my fictional characters, here’s a photo of a model that ‘feels’ right for our dear Phaedimus. All rights for these images belong to Getty Images.

Phaedimus profile small

For a wonderful, informative post about Phaedimus and his funerary inscription, see:


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